In Memoriam

  1. Trevor Hyam Braham (1922-2020)
  2. Nalni Dhar Jayal (1927-2020)
    Nalni Jayal and Indira Gandhi: Some Recollections (Jairam Ramesh)
    Remembering Mr N. D. Jayal (Reiko Terasawa) (Translated from Japanese to English by Setsu Togawa)
  3. Meher Mehta (1930-2020)



Trevor Hyam Braham


Trevor Hyam Braham

Memories march on, memories also stay on. This is true in the case of a legend such as Mr Trevor Braham. Luckily, he has left a good record of his memories—three books, several articles in The Himalayan Journaland about two hours of live recording. Going through all these, one can only fathom what an extraordinary man he was as a mountaineer and even otherwise.

Braham was born in Calcutta, India, on 22nd April, 1922. His father had a flourishing business, which he established at the end of the World War I and thus the family had settled in the city. In due course, he was sent to Darjeeling to St Joseph’s College, run by Jesuits, which inculcated a strong sense of discipline in him. The school had a powerful telescope through which Braham spent much time looking at Kangchenjunga. He returned to England to study further, but was back in India to join his father’s business albeit reluctantly. One of the only reason he returned was that he would be closer to the Himalaya.

On his first vacation, he was off to the Singalila ridge and Sandakphu with Sherpa Ajeeba, who later became famous. As he stood watching the sunset on Kangchenjunga, with clouds filling the valley his young mind was enchanted. “I knew then that this will be a large part of my life in future”.

Two more trips to Sikkim followed. In 1945, he trekked to the Green Lake on the Zemu glacier, but bad weather did not allow any views. He returned to North Sikkim the next year, for a longer duration. Starting from Lachen, he trekked to Thangu and stayed at The Himalayan Club hut, at the foot of Sebula the next day.They crossed the pass on the following day and stayed at a similar HC hut on the other side of the pass. They climbed the north peak of Chommoyummo.

On his return to Calcutta, Charles Crawford, President of The Himalayan Club, introduced him as a member of the Club. From 1946 until his death in 2020 he remained so–for 74 years. In his later years, he was elected as an Honorary Member (The Club is 92 years old today).

Trevor Hyam Braham

In 1947, a German expedition wrote to the Club requesting them to depute a member to join their team going to climb in the Gangotri glacier. Braham volunteered—it was a fine opportunity for him. The accident on Kedarnath involving a Sherpa, several climbs, and to be in heartland of the Himalaya, was an experience. He separated from the team during the latter part of the expedition, and crossed the Kalindi Khal on 14th August 1947. This was the last day of the British Garhwal—at midnight, India became an independent nation—it was now Indian Garhwal. Walking down to Badrinath he observed Independence Day celebrations in these remote villages. He was probably the first trekker in independent India! Hiring three Bhotias from Mana village, he turned into the Bhyundar valley and crossed the high pass of the same name to reach Malari. This was a fine exploration, as prior to this only Frank Smythe had visited this valley after the ascent of Kamet in 1931 and later in 1937 and christened it the ‘Valley of Flowers’. Today, it is one of the most well-known valleys in the Himalaya.

He returned to Sikkim in 1949 and went north through the Dembang valley to ‘The Plateau’, surrounded by high peaks. All these explorations had been noted in England. Lord Hunt met him in Calcutta and Braham was offered a place on the forthcoming 1953 Everest expedition, not as a member but as a ‘reserve’. Braham could sense that his father was not keen on sending him to Everest so he politely declined. But during this meeting, John Kempe mentioned about a possible route on Kangchenjunga, unclimbed until then. In 1954, Kempe and Braham spent five weeks on the slopes of Kangchenjunga. Unfortunately, they could not locate a straightforward route, which was left for the party of Charles Evans, who made the first ascent of the peak in 1955.

Trevor Hyam Braham

Braham received a letter from Peter Holmes inviting him to join his expedition to Spiti. He readily agreed and it turned out to be a highly successful trip. They made three new climbs, explored western Spiti and finally climbed Guan Nelda peak (now Chau Chau Kang Nilda). From its summit, they observed that the adjoining peak Shilla, was far lower in height than the 23,000 feet mentioned on the survey maps. He studied that the Survey party had taken two bearings to arrive at this height, not three as required. After their observation, a re-survey lowered the height of Shilla to 20,520 feet.

By 1959, his father had decided to wind up his business in Calcutta and go back to England, as Braham had refused to continue. While the family was shifting, Braham went to the Swiss Alps thrice and made eight superb climbs in one season.

By this time, Braham had enough of business and work so he decided to just enjoy the hills. As he was leaving India for good, he gave up all his positions at The Himalayan Club, which were many. Mainly, he was the Hon. Editor of The Himalayan Journal for a few years and he passed on the editorship to the first Indian editor, Dr. K. Biswas.

He spent three years in England, but the high ranges of the Sub-continent beckoned him soon. He grabbed an attractive job in Pakistan when the offer came his way. The firm had 2000 acres of fertile land in Punjab and orchards where fruits and cotton were grown. The firm had a factory to weave cotton. This job would allow him to explore the northern areas which were relatively unknown then. He bargained and got one month leave each year to go to the hills or visit England. He was in Pakistan from 1961 to 1970 and did excellent exploration, covered in his book. His articles in The Himalayan Journal cover his trips to Diran - 1958, Swat and Indus Kohistan - 1962, Kaghan - 1965 and NW Karakoram - 1970.

On a holiday in 1969, he went to Devon and common friends Mr. and Mrs. D F O Dangar,1 introduced him to his future wife Elizabeth. They promised to keep in contact through letters as Braham left for Pakistan again. They were soon married and Elizabeth came to Pakistan to stay with him. Like any mountaineer would, he took her to Gilgit and they stayed at Astor. As she was pregnant with their first son, Anthony, she left for Devon. But after the birth of their child, Elizabeth did not keep good health. Braham resigned his job and went back to England, and Dangar arranged a place for them to live at Devon. Braham started penning his first book Himalayan Odyssey, which was published in 1974. By then, Braham received an offer to work in Switzerland, which he accepted after much consideration and the family moved there.

He gives much credit to his wife, for many events in his life. Braham’s bedtime stories to his two sons used to be about his exploits so it was his wife who suggested “why don’t you write a book about it”. Unfortunately, Elizabeth became ill with cancer and Braham retired from all work and looked after her until she died.

Trevor Hyam Braham

As a young mountaineer I had heard and read about his expeditions, but I never had the opportunity to meet when I was visiting Switzerland in 1996 I tried to organize a meeting with Trevor Braham in Geneva. I asked him for a fax or an e-mail address. ‘No, I am pleased to say that I am not connected either through fax or e-mail’, came his prompt reply. That was typical of Braham, who though well-connected with many editors worldwide, refused to convert to electronic means of communication. He invited me to visit his home and gave me precise instructions on how to reach there. We spent a relaxed time in his library and garden. In the evening, he took me to meet Andre Roch, the legendary Swiss climber, whom he had known for almost 50 years.

Apart from his classic book, from 1976 to 1986 Braham edited the Himalayan Chronicle, which was published annually as part of the Swiss Alpine Club Journal. He was in contact with most of the happenings in the mountaineering world, guides and several editors—who needs a fax for this! I received neatly written postcards or letters from him regularly. For any contacts and references, he was always around. In fact, many of his letters used to spark off new ideas and new projects.

All these years Braham has been closely associated with The Himalayan Club and served it in several capacities. He became a member of the Club in 1946 and joined the Managing Committee in 1956 and served on it later from 1967 to 1974. He was the Secretary of the Club from 1950 to 1955. When the editor of HJ, H.W. Tobin died suddenly, he agreed to be the Hon. Editor of The Himalayan Journal from 1957 to 1959 and produced volumes XX-XXI with George Band. He was the Librarian in 1957 and Vice-President from 1958 to 1964. Later he was elected an Honorary Member of the Club.

After his years in India, Braham lived in London for two years. In 1961, with V.S. Risoe, he organized the first-ever London Reunion Dinner of The Himalayan Club members and this tradition was alive until 2015.

In retirement since 1995, he was able to spend longer hours in his library, reading and writing. During his lifetime, he had interacted with many leading names of our generation and had memories that could fill volumes. Busy as he was, I failed to persuade him to pen these down for posterity, even as an article for The Himalayan Journal, and I continue to hold this grievance against Braham as it’s a big loss for the mountaineering community. One can never get enough from a person of his calibre. Some of his contributions were pioneering. His work with D F O Danger produced two path breaking articles on the history of 8000 m peaks. Later, with the explosion of climbing, this work formed the basis of records.

When I arrived back home after meeting him, I dug out a letter with few photographs, which had been sent by Braham. He had enquired whether the col at the head of the Bhagirath Kharak glacier was crossed after 1912 or not. He wrote, ‘An interesting exploratory link, if it has not already been done.’ This was an incentive enough to send me on a future trip there. Like a true pillar, sometimes well-hidden but most essential, Braham had supported The Himalayan Club for decades and sent persons like me to roam the Himalaya!

As years rolled on, he led a happy life, playing piano, looking after a vast garden and taking long walks daily, “irrespective of weather”. He would often go to London to attend meetings at the Alpine Club and meet friends. He visited Mumbai a couple of times and finally in 2008, to celebrate the 80th anniversary of the Club. We went for a boat ride in the Mumbai harbour and met for lunches at my home.

His talk ‘The Early Years’, recalled the history of the Club and his association with it. He said

“A late 19th century artist and Alpine climber was about right when he remarked that there are no dangerous mountains, only dangerous mountaineers. The American climber, Ed Vestieurs, was expressing the thoughts of a majority when he said, ‘getting to the top is optional, getting down is mandatory’.”

Braham died, after an illness, on 2nd March 2020, aged 97 years. He quotes the Bard in his last book: “There comes a time, in life of every man, when tide flows high and you got to take advantage of it”. Braham certainly did.

Such men are rare these days. Achievers, yet down to earth, private but brilliant and expressive in person and in their chosen medium.

Harish Kapadia

Books by Trevor Braham

  1. Himalayan Odyssey. By Trevor Braham. Pp. 243, b/w photos, maps, 1974. (George Allen and Unwin Ltd., London, GBP 6.50, in 1974).
  2. When the Alps Cast Their Spell. By Trevor Braham. Pp. 314, b/w and colour photos, 2004. (Neil Wilson Publishing, Glasgow, GBP 20). The book was winner of the prestigious Boardman-Tasker Book Prize, 2004.
  3. Himalayan Playground. By Trevor Braham. (Kindle


  1. D.F.O Dangar compiled first 39 Indexes (Vols. I to 39) of The Himalayan Journal.



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Nalni Dhar Jayal


Nalni Dhar Jayal was born to a well-known and respected Garhwali family. All siblings went to the newly-opened Doon School, in Dehradun where they were tutored by a stellar team drawn, inter alia, from Shanti Niketan, Eton, Harrow and Oxbridge, each charged with the passion to teach not only in the classroom or on the playing field but, equally, in the Himalayan hinterland.

True to form, Nalni flourished in this environment, growing up with Doon contemporaries who shone in their chosen fields…among them Aamir Ali in the ILO and as a mountain region essayist credited with the Siachen Peace Park concept, Bidhu Dhar Jayal in the first batch of the IAS, and Narendra Dhar Jayal (Nandu) widely regarded, with Guru, as India’s mountaineering point persons out front. Tragically, Nandu died in harness leading India’s first expedition to Cho Oyu in 1958. Nevertheless, in those pioneering times, the spirit of adventure was firmly ahead of the curve. Nalni bore the baton with expeditions to Trisul, Kamet, Nun Kun, Thangu, and Mrigthuni, in later life becoming Vice President of the Indian Mountaineering Foundation and The Himalayan Club.

Nalni’s many splendoured life etches a crusader’s legacy. Starting out with the Indian Air Force, Nalni flew a Liberator aircraft in 1953, right across Mount Everest, soon after the first ascent by Tenzing and Hillary. His classic wide angle colour telephoto of Everest from the air was imprinted in the commemorative postage stamp released by Prime Minister Nehru.

Nalni Dhar Jayal

Moving on, Nalni joined the Indian Frontier Administrative Service (IFAS) in NEFA, followed by 25 years in the IAS. He often harkened to his appointment as Kinnaur’s first Deputy Commissioner where he was “happily forgotten for seven years”, sharpening his feel for environment care and habitat protection. Blending modernity and tradition in order to draw advantage from technology and innovation, Nalni campaigned relentlessly to empower local communities and to safeguard endemic plant and animal species as the principal beneficiaries in development programmes. Little wonder that he was called upon to set up the Environment and Forests division of the Ministry of Agriculture, Government of India, now metamorphosed to the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change.

This was not all. Nalni was development adviser with the World Bank and Member of the Island Development Authority chaired by the Prime Minister. However, his motive spirit continued to be deepening concern at rampant destruction of the Himalayan habitat which he took head on, backed by solutions emanating from his wide range of mountain habitat visits. A strong votary for closure of the Nanda Devi Sanctuary, Nalni thus sought to thwart ecological degradation caused by visitor groups’ sheep and goat trains that strip grazed the inner Sanctuary meadows including scented herbs, food source of the rare musk deer, itself integral to the prey base of the apex predator. But woe betides us! Some nimble herders dragged their flocks across the Devistan ridge to resume uprooting the inner Sanctuary meadows. A solution was found, in the shape of pre-departure briefs for climbers and trekkers, motivated to become Sanctuary rakshaks. Alongside, a cap was placed on annual numbers allowed entry.

Nalni was also responsible for creating the environment and conservation focus at INTACH in its formative years with Dr Pupul Jayakar. But most of all, unsparing eco-warrior that he was, Nalni created the NGO which he named Himalaya Trust, as the platform for development initiatives in the Himalayan heartland.

In many ways, Nalni’s bond with the Nanda Devi Sanctuary resonates with Eric Shipton’s closing lines in the lyrical ‘Nanda Devi’ recalling the first ever entry with Tilmanto the Sanctuary’s inner core:

Return to civilization was hard but in the sanctuary of the blessed goddess we had found the lasting peace which is the reward of those who seek to know high mountain places.

Sudhir Sahi



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Nalni Jayal and Indira Gandhi: Some Recollections

Jairam Ramesh

I cannot claim to have known Nalni Jayal well because I came to the world of nature and the environment only in 2009. But while researching for my environmental biography of Indira Gandhi (Indira Gandhi: A Life in Nature, 2017) I got to know of him. I also met with him for a few hours at his residence in Dehradun in early 2017. His memory was still razor-sharp and he generously made available to me his large collection of papers and records. This tribute to him is drawn from that biography.

Salim Ali may well have had a hand in Jayal’s appointment as Joint Secretary in charge of forests and wildlife in late 1975. The great ornithologist’s archive at the Nehru Memorial Museum and Library have many letters between ‘Salim Chacha’ and ‘Nalni’, the two having known each other since Jayal was in school in Dehradun.

In February 1976 Indira Gandhi went to Bharatpur along with her sons, their wives, and two grandchildren. Salim Ali had already reached the venue a few days earlier. On her return she asked Jayal to visit the bird sanctuary and examine what needed to be done to give it a higher degree of protection. Jayal went in July 1976 and prepared a detailed report on the matter. The nation’s first hydro-biological research station was started at the sanctuary by BNHS and WWF-India along with the state forest department. Subsequently, a wall was also erected and by November 1977 itself reports started appearing on how the wall had meant more winged visitors to the sanctuary.

Salim Ali wrote to Nalni Jayal in March 1976 drawing attention to a reported proposal of the recently formed Kerala State Forest Corporation to clear-fell 65,000 hectares of forest in the Western Ghats in south Kerala. Jayal replied to Salim Ali seventeen days later:

Immediately on receipt of your letter, we took steps to obtain factual information on the foregoing report. Meanwhile, however, the Prime Minister acted swiftly… She wrote firmly to the Chief Minister of Kerala asking him to halt the clear-felling operation and refer the matter to an independent authority, viz., the Inspector General of Forests before embarking further on the project. The first step has thus been promptly taken […]

Salim Ali had begun his letter to Jayal by saying: ‘This is your first test!’ Thanks to the prime minister, he passed with flying colours almost immediately.

In February 1980 Indira Gandhi constituted a committee—comprising both officials and outside experts like M. Krishnan, Zafar Futehally, Billy Arjan Singh and Madhav Gadgil—to prepare a report that would ‘recommend legislative measures and administrative machinery for ensuring environmental protection’. The chairman of the committee was to be the deputy chairman of the Planning Commission, and in April, when a leading political figure N. D. Tiwari was appointed to this post, he became chairman of the committee—which, consequently, came to be known as the Tiwari Committee.

By September 15 1980 which is fast work by committee standards, a report had been prepared. It was formally presented to the prime minister two days later. There were many recommendations but the most significant was the one regarding the creation of a new Department of Environment under the direct charge of the prime minister. Indira Gandhi herself became India’s first minister of environment in November 1980 and was to remain so till her death. The Tiwari Committee’s report was written mostly by Jayal. He was to join the new Department of Environment when it was formed in November and stayed there till May 1983. He contributed much because of the prime minister’s backing. It was in the early eighties, for instance, that a couple of scientific institutions for providing research and training facilities in environmental conservation were established, as also national parks in the Himalayan range extending from Ladakh to Arunachal Pradesh.

On August 1982 Indira Gandhi received a letter from Minister of State of Tourism and Civil Aviation Khursheed Alam Khan, along with photographs of a dilapidated Fatehpur Sikri. A month later Jayal sent out a letter to various ministries that showed Indira Gandhi’s deep-seated belief that nature and culture were two sides of the same coin. The letter began thus:

The Prime Minister has desired a Committee to be constituted under the Chairmanship of Dr. T.N. Khoshoo, Secretary (Environment), to consider measures necessary for conserving the environment and improving the aesthetic quality of such national heritage areas as Fatehpur Sikri, Kushinagar, Sravasti, Brajbhoomi Parikrama Complex, Agra Fort and the Red Fort in Delhi. The Union Department of Tourism has recently prepared master-plans which […] reveal the kind of environmental degradation that is taking place in these areas […]

The Prime Minister has also received a letter from the former President of the National Trust of Australia offering any assistance that we may need […] The Committee mentioned above could also consider the possibility of establishing a comparable National Trust in India, modeled on the U.K. or Australian experience […] for integrated environmental conservation of our national heritage which might cover such other complexes as Jaisalmer, Khajuraho, Mahabalipuram, Konarak, Bhubaneshwar, etc.

In 1982 she sent Jayal to study the National Trust, UK to see how it could be replicated in India. One direct outcome of this visit was that Director of the UK National Trust Sir Angus Stirling came to India and submitted a fairly lengthy report on what could be done in India. Finally, the highest committee of officials recommended that a National Heritage Trust be set up by an Act of Parliament. Sadly, nothing came of this bold idea—but a variant of it, known as the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH), got created outside government in early 1984. Jayal himself was to be very active in INTACH for years after his retirement in mid-1983.

I have given only a flavour of Nalni Jayal’s work under the direction of Indira Gandhi between 1975 and 1983. Clearly Salim Ali was an integral part of that work. I have not dealt with Silent Valley, for instance, which was an extremely critical episode in those times or the formulation of a national forest policy a draft of which had actually been finalized by mid-1984 but that could not see the light of day because of Indira Gandhi’s assassination. It was to be presented four years later. Nalni Jayal was a passionate naturalist who was clearly ahead of his times. It is now that we are rediscovering the truth of what was evident to him—that nature protects those who protect her.

This is a tribute to Nalni and his pioneering work on steps to protect the environment with support from India’s Prime Minister Indira Gandhi back in the 1970s. It is important for the current generation to know of these pioneers whose vision foresaw the problems that we face today and tried to right them in different ways.

This has been presented as an article in Nalni’s memory, rather than an obituary.

Jairam Ramesh is a Member of Parliament and Chairman of Parliament’s Standing Committee on Science & Technology, Environment, Forests and Climate Change. He is the author of several well-known books including Green Signals: Ecology, Growth & Democracy in India (2015) and Indira Gandhi: A Life in Nature (2017). He has been a Union Minister as well.



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Remembering Mr N. D. Jayal

My first meeting with Mr N. D. Jayal was 34 years ago, in January 1986, when he was the Vice President of the Indian Mountaineering Foundation. I met him when he visited Japan as Chief Guest of the India Himalaya meeting organized by the Himalayan Association of Japan.

Mr Jayal was the primary Deputy Commissioner of Kinnaur district in Himachal Pradesh. In 1986, a women’s team from HAJ planned a trip to Kinnaur, but in those days the area was closed to foreigners. In fact foreign tourists couldn’t locate Kinnaur on the map. The ‘World Alpine Mountaineer Atlas, Himalaya’ published by the well-known Japanese company Gakken had an incorrect concept map of this area. The peak which we had permission to climb was marked quite away from its actual location.

In Delhi, we met Mr Jayal, the D.C. and thus although we had some trouble with the army people we could manage to reach the higher camps.

After that Mr Jayal invited me to Kinnaur often, but as I was going to other mountain areas, I did not go. I finally visited Kinnaur in 2014—Mr Jayal was aged and weak, unable to walk by himself. But even in this condition he agreed to be our local guardian and we were given the inner line permit.

In Kinnaur, Mr Jayal introduced the concept of zero garbage, hygiene and sanitation among the local people. He encouraged local people to grow apples, other fruits and vegetables with the idea of making them self-sufficient.

In 1986, Mr Jayal was invited to the International Alpinist Symposium in Matsumoto city. In 1993, he came to Japan again, this time to participate in the meeting on Human Rights. After that I visited Dehradun every year to meet Mr Jayal.

Once, on my way to Tuting, located in the north-east of Arunachal Pradesh, I met an old man of a certain tribe who said, “He is first one who has treated us as a human being.”

Mr Jayal protested against several ‘developmental’ plans such as Nuclear power and the construction of the Tehri Dam. He lost these battles and sometimes he looked so sad that I cannot forget his sorrowful expression.

He established an NGO called the Himalaya Trust for the mountain people of Garhwal. I also gave my support—a mere drop in the ocean. But we tried our best.

Once I asked him why he had stopped mountaineering which he had loved. He replied with longing in his eyes, “I had to give up because it wasn’t possible to handle both my job and hobby.”

After his retirement he said, “Now I feel happy, because I can do my best for the under privileged people.” Some people secretly laughed at his simple and humble life after retirement but he donated part of his pension for their welfare and all his time. Mr Jayal was such a person.

As Mr Jayal had no plan to write down his life history, some of his admirers decided that there should be something in printed form. So they interviewed him and the book was published in March 2019, just a year before his death. With limited copies, the book was not for sale, but it is an important work for Mr Jayal’s life-sketch and his achievements. Through Mr Jayal, I got to know the climbing history of the Himalaya, about his cousin Mr Nandu Jayal and Tenzing Norgay.

At the end of 2019, he became sick and was hospitalized frequently. He passed away of a heart attack on 18th March, just as Covid 19 started spreading. He turned 94 just the previous month, on 11th Feb—I had joined the celebrations. I am glad I could pay my gratitude to him.

I always kept myself prepared to visit India and so I had not let my visa expire for 13 years. But because of Covid 19, I couldn’t see Mr Jayal off on his last journey. There was still so much to know, learn from him.

When Mr Jayal was only two months old, he had met with an accident when their car fell down the valley and his mother passed away protecting him. Hope he meets her in the other world along with his friends from Doon School, and his cousin Nandu who was very close. Hope they are together and having a peaceful ordinary life.

Reiko Terasawa
(Translated from Japanese to English by Setsu Togawa)



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Meher Mehta


It’s not too often that one is fortunate enough to cross paths with a towering personality like that of Meher H. Mehta, FRGS (fondly referred to as MHM). His tall, stately visage, his exceptional communication skills, coupled with an incorruptible character attracted many. MHM had the unique ability of being able to magnetize mountain lovers and climbers to dream of achieving great Himalayan excellence. He would stimulate the intellectual yearning of the erudite mountain lover as well as kindle the spirit of incorrigibly romantic young mountaineers to chase their wildest dreams. Such was the enthusiasm that MHM radiated!

MHM was born in 1930 in the state of Gujarat. He did his schooling in Mumbai and St Josephs’ Kolkata. College years were spent at St Xavier’s College in Kolkata in the early fifties. In his youthful years, physical sports attracted his tall and energetic frame and he spent his free time pursuing, hockey, football, boxing, and athletics. His love for the Himalaya began in 1951 when he went trekking in the Garhwal Himalaya and had the good fortune of meeting the first New Zealand Himalayan Expedition members—i.e. George Lowe, Earle Riddiford, Edmund Hillary and Ed Cotter near Badrinath while they were involved with their expedition to Mukut Parbat (7242 m) – they made its first ascent via the sharp and steep western ridge. MHM would often fondly talk about this inspiring meeting with the New Zealanders. The photograph of this group adorned in his living room for many years as a precious memento. He became a member of The Himalayan Club around 1953 and remained a steadfast and proud Life Member till his end, holding various posts including that of Secretary and Vice President. The decision to transfer the operational office of the HC from Kolkata to Mumbai (1971) actually took place at a meeting at his residence in Mumbai. In 1958 he married Tina Mehta.

Over the years he pursued a vigorous and successful career in banking. He worked at the National and Grindlays Bank Ltd and became a senior functionary in the Foreign and Corporate affairs department. He worked with different departments during 1955–1990, reaching senior management levels. In fact he played a pivotal role in introducing the Grindlays Bank scholarship for aspiring climbers among HC members.

Meher Mehta

The Kolkata section of the HC had turned fairly moribund around 2000 and MHM who was spending his retired life in Kolkata was assigned the task of turning the local section into a happening one.He found this purpose and challenge much to his liking—he pursued it with full vigour and enthusiasm. He focussed on generating various activities—of climbing as well as dissemination of information about the Himalaya vide regular programmes and talks by prominent speakers. He inducted like minded people into the local section’s membership so that they would carry forward his ideas into the future. MHM introduced the annual Sarat Chandra Das Memorial Lectures in Kolkata. The first Sarat Chandra Das lecture was presented by late Aspi Moddie and Commander Satyabrata Dam in 2004. Other notable speakers included Mr Vijay Crishna, Dr George Rodway, Dr Debal Sen, Bill Aitken, Mirella Tenderini, Professor Syed Hasnain and Robert Pettigrew. In addition to the SCD talks, speakers like Tom Nakamura visited Kolkata on his invitation and talked about climbs and explorations. The Kolkata Section teams would present their expedition experiences to full houses. The 50th year of the first ascent of Kangchenjunga was commemorated with several members of the successful British team joining the programme. Late Col Balwant Sandhu graced the 75th commemoration programme of Kamet. The local newspapers began covering the Kolkata Section’s programmes regularly. These were MHM’s Camelot days!

MHM was an astute visionary who found ways and means of building the HC Kolkata Section’s enterprise with support from the likes of the late Russi Mody, late Aditya Kashyap and the late Guenther Wehrman (then Consul General of Germany in Kolkata). He attracted many others who lent their weight without any expectation in return. He spent large sums of money from his own resources to keep the flag flying high.

On the mountaineering front, he lent support in the planning and execution of mountaineering expeditions of veteran mountaineer AVM (Retd) Apurba Kumar Bhattacharyya (AKB). Expeditions began to be initiated every year—some were unsuccessful and some exceptional, some humble and some on difficult peaks. AKB, with his vast mountaineering knowledge and past experiences at the helm of the renowned NIM Uttarkashi helped MHM develop a sturdy team of skilled climbers. Kamet (7756 m) was one of the early successes for the rejuvenated Kolkata Section in 2006 (75th year commemorative expedition). With the subsequent induction of late Pradeep Sahoo (an engineer and a dreamy eyed but tough mountaineer) into the management of the local section, they were able to kindle interest in attempting peaks in the Karakoram in addition to the Himalaya, as Pradeep was able to support the fund raising activity. They propagated the ideals of thinking differently and thinking high. Great expeditions were executed over the years - Mamostang Kangri (7516 m) and Saser Kangri IV (7416 m) in the Karakoram, Nilkanth (6596 m) in Garhwal, and Jongsong in Sikkim, amongst many others. The crown in the jewel was the first ascent of Plateau (7287m) in the Indian Karakoram in 2013 led by the young mountaineer Debraj Dutta.

MHM loved mountain literature. He maintained a phenomenal collection of books on the Himalaya. After each HC Kolkata section expedition, a publication was released with information on the peak the Kolkata section team had undertaken, history of expeditions on these peaks and articles by reputed climbers. They were well received in the mountaineering fraternity. We had the good fortune of helping him edit these publications and were always fascinated by his incredible eye for perfection and detail. MHM also remained concerned by the environmental degradation and effects of climate change on the Himalaya. He pushed us to organize many a seminar on these issues to bring awareness to people.

Renowned mountaineer, Brigadier Ashok Abbey wrote about MHM-’He was a true visionary, who lived by his convictions! He was a go-getter with infinite energy and the gumption to follow his chosen path. Perhaps he took his convictions too seriously. I am also a ‘ first hand witness’ to his strategy and painstaking effort, in raising funds for mountaineering expeditions from Kolkata, primarily with the aim of giving young climbers an opportunity and an exposure to climb in the Himalaya!’

Perhaps he took his convictions too seriously at times and he appeared to be condescending towards many—but his intention was always for the progress and development of the movement he had started. He was also one not to cower down when his ideas of freedom of self-expression was not looked upon kindly. It caused differences with some, but he would remain unrelenting due to his unflinching self-beliefs. A true enigma he was!

Bill Aitken rather aptly reflected– ‘He was an individual of indelible consequence, a person of great rectitude shaped by his love for the Himalaya. When such great souls go, they leave behind the fragrance of something everlasting’.

Abou Ben Adhem! (May your tribe increase)

For such humans are not born every day.

Priyadarshi Gupta
Dr Rupamanjari Biswas